In yet another trucking case involving a plaintiff’s request for discovery of several years of company records, the Austin Court of Appeals has denied a petition for mandamus seeking to limit the scope of discovery.
In re UPS, Inc. and Antoine Scott Crenshaw (No. 03-22-00526-CV) arose from an accident between a bicyclist and a UPS deliver truck in Williamson County. Plaintiff alleged that the driver failed to yield the right-of-way at a stop sign and sued UPS and the driver, asserting direct and vicarious liability claims, including negligent training and supervision claims against the company. Plaintiff sought discovery of all accident claims and lawsuits relating to any UPS vehicle allegedly failing to yield the right-of-way at a traffic-control device in Texas for the past five years. The trial court ordered UPS to produce the requested discovery. UPS and the driver sought mandamus from the court of appeals on the basis that the discovery request was overly broad and unduly burdensome.
The court of appeals denied relief, holding that the trial court did not clearly abuse its discretion in ordering discovery of the requested information. The court distinguished a pair of recent SCOTX decisions to reach this conclusion. The first, In re Contract Freighters, Inc., 646 S.W.3d 810 (Tex. 2022), involved a discovery request for all lawsuits arising from rear-end collisions with defendant’s trucks anywhere in the US for the preceding five years. The second, In re UPS Ground Freight, Inc., 646 S.W.3d 828 (Tex. 2022), dealt with a request for five years of positive drug-test records for drivers who worked at a specific UPS facility. In both cases, SCOTX granted mandamus because it found the discovery overbroad and irrelevant to the specific accident at issue in the lawsuits. Here, the court of appeals reasoned that since plaintiff only requested Texas-specific data (not nationwide) and that the total number of records requested was likely to be relatively small (perhaps fewer than 100), the discovery was neither overbroad nor unduly burdensome.
While it is true that the discovery request in this case is narrower than in the two cases recently decided by SCOTX, we are still puzzled over the question of how discovery of five years of claims will tend to show that UPS negligently trained and supervised this specific driver under the circumstances of this particular case. Plaintiff argues that the prior claims help establish that this driver could foreseeably run a stop sign. But if that’s the case, it seems just as “foreseeable” that the driver could violate any number of traffic laws that are certainly not specific to the operation of commercial vehicles or to training or supervising drivers of commercial vehicles. In any event, it seems to us that the purpose of such discovery is to stampede the jury into “sending a message” to a “bad” trucking company, that is, reptile theory tactics. We’ll see what UPS does next.